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Indict night
2007-11-15 18:43
by Bob Timmermann

For those who have been in seclusion, I thought I would mention that Barry Bonds was indicted by a Federal grand jury in California today. You can read the actual indictment here.

But I was wondering about something else? Why is the word "indict" spelled so much differently from its pronunciation? Mussolini wasn't a ditator, he was a dictator.

So I consulted the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary to see if there was an answer. Well, there was, sort of. Not that I understand it as I don't have Arneson-like linguistic skills.

I can't cut and paste the info because it has a lot of weird characters and is also copyrighted, so I'll paraphrase as best I can.

The word "indict" appears to derive from the Latin "indictare" which means "to say or declare." The word made its way into Middle English as "endite." But the word may also have come from the Latin "indicare" which means "to show."

English lawyers started using the word "indite" in the late 16th century and then, for reasons unknown, decided to go with "indict" around 1600. But they didn't change the pronunciation.

And so "indict" rhymes with "night."

I believe my explanation is almost, but not quite, entirely unhelpful.


2007-11-15 19:09:55
1.   El Lay Dave
"I believe my explanation is almost, but not quict, entirely unhelpful."


I thought "indictare" was a state of Clarence the cross-eyed lion.

2007-11-15 19:17:51
2.   BlueMamma
I hope Score Bard reads this entry. I can see a charming limerick coming.
2007-11-15 19:45:28
3.   Voxter
There was a big push to make Latinize English in those days, and a lot of superfluous letters got inserted in places they don't seem to belong. I think "doubt" is also an example of this. It's also why it's such a big no-no to split infinitives, if I recall -- because it's not possible in Latin, it shouldn't be done in English.
2007-11-15 19:59:58
4.   capdodger
Let me channel Mark Slackmeyer:


2007-11-15 20:04:03
5.   El Lay Dave
3 I've definitely heard that history as well. To knowingly split an infinitive is unjustifiable.
2007-11-15 20:11:12
6.   mehmattski
3 And from the other perspective, there was a push after 1066 for the Latinization (or Frenchification) of English, which resulted in so many of the problems with our language and grammar. Many of the common folk of England either refused or were not able to assimilate the new language, instead adopting it on the side. And thus we have terms like "cease and desist" which is two words with identical meaning, but one is Anglo-Saxon and the other is French.

I would guess, then, that indict is a relic of this time, having a French pronunciation but a German-like spelling. See also: victuals.

2007-11-15 21:52:02
7.   Andrew Shimmin
I can't believe the IRS still can't get its act together. "Cheating" at baseball, and then lying about it is bad. But tax evasion is a real crime.
2007-11-16 17:10:08
8.   Voxter
6 - It comes directly from a French word -- enditer -- with the same meaning and similar pronunciation, but there's no Germanic cognate to explain the "C", and it wasn't spelled "indict" until around 1600. It was around 1600 that Latinization was all the rage in England, partially because Latin was the language of study, and the language of Rome, and the English liked to think of themselves as terribly erudite and heirs to Rome's dynastic past.

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